The untimely death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman on Sunday has brought drug and alcohol abuse to the forefront of conversations across the nation this week. Realistically, it should be a topic of conversation all the time because substance abuse is one of the most pervasive social problems in America. Alcoholism alone impacts more than 47 percent of Americans who are either addicted to alcohol or have a child, parent, sibling or spouse who is an alcoholic.
This week, JFCS staff heard from a small panel of members of 12-step programs who shared stories about their experiences with addiction and recovery.
“Sherrie” comes from a family with a history of alcoholism. She ultimately learned that she would not succeed by drinking away her feelings, and she is about to celebrate 12 years of continuous sobriety. She has worked with alcoholics in recovery, just as others worked with her. She is also very active in a number of local organizations. Sherrie credits a 12-step program with helping her to stop agonizing over her past mistakes; she now recognizes that her drinking led her to the path that has helped her to be the person she is today.
“Jim” abused alcohol and cocaine for a number of years. He attended some group meetings under court order earlier in his life, but he did not identify with the program. He finally sought help after suffering a stroke related to his substance abuse. For Jim, seeing nods of agreement as he spoke to a group of relative strangers cemented his involvement with the program, and after more than 10 years of sobriety he is still actively involved.
“Carla” joined a group for family members while her daughter was in a recovery program for alcohol addiction, and there she found support that she did not receive from her family and friends. Even after her daughter’s drinking no longer had a negative impact on their home life, Carla continued to attend the meetings. She was grateful to have that support system close at hand when she learned that her son was struggling with substance abuse as well.
While their stories are all very different, all three panelists agreed that the group meetings changed their lives in a very positive way. Often, people affected by addiction feel that those closest to them do not understand their experiences and decisions. These groups offer a safe environment where members can share personal experience, strength and hope.
Addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer. As Sherrie pointed out, “This illness doesn’t care how much money you make, or whether you wear a cross or a Star of David around your neck.” It transcends income, occupation, gender, race, religion, political party and nationality.
If you need help with addiction, call us at 452-6341. JFCS counselors can help to direct you to resources that are right for you and your life.
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